The pecking order of the Detroit Lions' running backs has been determined the way it should be at any position – by performance.
Rookie D’Andre Swift took a giant step to the top of the position's depth chart with his performance in Sunday's 30-27 win over the Washington Football Team.
What we've learned from watching Swift since opening day was solidified Sunday—that his combination of running and receiving skills makes him a valuable dual threat who can play all three downs in all situations.
What Swift has accomplished is no surprise to Barry Sanders and Billy Sims. The two greatest backs in Lions history spoke recently about Swift, who came to the Lions as a second-round draft pick out of Georgia in the 2020 draft.
What we learned from their insights is that the Lions have found their running back of the present and future.
Among the other things we learned include the following: Teams employ questionable strategy on kickoffs late in games in what they apparently think is a safe, conservative strategy and a penalty called against left tackle Taylor Decker actually was evidence of how well he has been playing this season.
We start with Swift.
He led the Lions' running backs Sunday, playing 43 of the 59 offensive snaps. Kerryon Johnson played nine, and Adrian Peterson played seven.
Swift had 16 carries for 81 yards and five catches for 68 yards and a TD.
Peterson had four carries for 21 yards and a nine-yard reception. Johnson carried once, for three yards.
It was a solid overall performance by Swift, who has had some other good moments – 116 yards rushing in a win over Jacksonville, 64 in a loss to the Vikings and 60 receiving yards in a loss to the Packers.
Sims and Sanders liked what they saw from Swift in college, and what he'd done earlier in the season.
"From what I saw (at Georgia), he has the potential to be great – without a doubt," said Sims, drafted first overall by the Lions in 1980 out of Oklahoma.
"It all starts up front with the supporting cast around him. You can't go through this league doing it yourself. He has the potential to be great."
Sanders, drafted third overall by the Lions and regarded by many as the greatest Lion of all time, also likes what he's seen.
"It's tough making that jump from college to pro, especially when you play on a dominating college team.
"From what I've seen so far, the kid can be very good – and maybe even better than that."
Swift's skill set makes him special, Sanders said.
"He sees it," Sanders said. "He hits the hole. He's able to use his quickness. For a smaller guy, he's able to break some tackles.
"He can be really good."
Penalty: Decker was flagged for holding in Sunday's game, which prompted me to look at one of the websites that tracks stats. It was his first holding penalty of the year.
Decker has played all 539 offensive snaps in the first nine games, and he goes up weekly against elite pass rushers.
Offensive linemen often get taken for granted – until they're flagged for a penalty.
That was the case with Decker Sunday, but the penalty he incurred highlighted how well he is playing.
Kickoff strategy: Washington head coach "Riverboat" Ron Rivera is known to be a gambler, but he played it straight Sunday and lost.
After Washington tied the game at 27-27 with a field goal with 16 seconds left, the ensuing kickoff went into the end zone with no return – and no time off the clock.
The Lions started their possession at the 25-yard line. They ran three snaps: 10-yard yard pass to rookie wide receiver Quintez Cephus; roughing the passer penalty that gained 15 yards; nine-yard pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to Washington's 41.
A timeout after the catch left three seconds on the clock. Matt Prater's 59-yard field goal won the game.
What we've learned from similar situations is that time matters. Kicking the ball into the end zone for no return took no time off the clock.
The Lions' second kickoff of the game – after Stafford's TD pass to wide receiver Marvin Hall—was returned 19 yards by Washington to the 26-yard line. The return took six seconds.
A similar kickoff and return with the score tied late in the game would have given the Lions 10 seconds – give or take a second – to mount a winning possession.
Most likely, the game would have gone into overtime.
As we've learned, second guessing is never wrong.